CHINA's top Hong Kong official yesterday blasted the Government's refusal to provide Beijing with personal information on top civil servants. Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director Lu Ping said it would hinder Beijing's ability to appoint the principal officials who will serve after 1997. 'The central Government cannot possibly appoint the principal officials with our eyes closed,' he said in a strongly-worded attack during a break in Preliminary Working Committee (PWC) meetings in Beijing. 'We must have all the details.' The Hong Kong Government currently insists it will only supply the details to the future Chief Executive, who will head the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) and be chosen in late 1996. But Mr Lu warned this was not enough: 'If the Hong Kong administration only hands over the information to the SAR Government, this will affect the [Chinese] central Government in considering the appointment of principal officials who are currently civil servants.' His comments are a major blow to Governor Chris Patten's attempts to isolate the PWC and forge direct ties with the Chief Executive instead. They may even force Government House to abandon this strategy, although officials insisted yesterday there were no plans for a rethink. Under the Basic Law, the Chief Executive will nominate the top officials who will serve after 1997. But their appointment is a matter for Beijing, although, until recently, it was thought this would be little more than a formality. Mr Lu denied Beijing's latest demand would damage the morale of local civil servants. It would be more demoralising, he said, if those who now hold senior posts in the civil service lost the chance to become principal officials in the post-1997 administration because Beijing was barred from receiving information about them. His comments follow a recent attack by Xiao Weiyun, mainland co-convenor of the PWC's political sub-group, on Britain's refusal to hand over the information. Mr Lu said any failure to deliver details of civil servants and of Government assets was tantamount to a 'severe violation' of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. No 'private transfer' should be made between the Hong Kong Government and the SAR administration, he said. Since Hong Kong was to revert to Chinese sovereignty, all information must first go to the central Government, which would then hand it over to the SAR Government. Mr Lu said China knew how to handle such confidential information, and only a few senior officials would be allowed to see it. 'We will not publish it in the newspapers, so the scope [for inspection of the personal information] would be very small,' he said. In Hong Kong yesterday, officials denied Mr Lu's outburst would embarrass Mr Patten by forcing him to abandon his goal of working directly with the Chief Executive, which was the main focus of last October's policy address. Government House spokesman Kerry McGlynn said there was no question of backing down, but discussions were possible on other matters. 'We're in no way precluding a dialogue on civil service transitional issues,' he said. Also in Beijing yesterday, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs economic chief Zhang Liangdong brushed aside last week's public apology by Jardines, in which Managing Director Alasdair Morrison expressed 'regret' for any offence the company had caused Beijing. Mr Zhang hinted China felt the British company was too closely involved in Hong Kong politics. 'If a firm purely involves itself in commercial activities, people will judge it from a commercial perspective,' he said. 'But if it indulges itself too much in political activities, people naturally will judge it from a political perspective. 'We hope foreign investors can make a success in their development, but, at the same time, they should contribute to the social stability and economic prosperity of the place.' Meanwhile, the PWC economic sub-group concluded a two-day meeting in Beijing with its members unable to reach agreement on the Government's proposed North-West New Territories railway. Hong Kong co-convenor Nellie Fong Wong Kut-man said the issue should be discussed in the Sino-British Joint Liaison Group as soon as possible.